Japan Post owns a residential complex composed of two identical blocks in the city of Omiya, Saitama Prefecture in Japan.
This was built in 1970 and it was intended as company housing. However, in time the inhabitants started to leave the property one after another, making the whole blocks empty and abandoned soon after.
Project Name: Post Omiya
Studio Name: Roovice
Hence, the owner wanted to renovate the area to bring back the community that once lived in, improving the quality of the community around it at the same time.
To do this, Japan Post asked the Japanese architectural offices Lion Building Office (lion-kenchiku.co.jp) and ROOVICE (roovice.com) to modernise one building the housing block: composed by 32 units, each of them of 36 square metre in size, it will become the reference for the future renovation of the second block.
The project is managed by Kariage (カリアゲ kariage.tokyo), a ROOVICE service established to renovate empty 30 or more year-old buildings throughout Japan at no cost to the owner. The purpose is to provide a second life to constructions that without further maintenance would eventually be demolished.
Beside the sole architectural cause, the main social intent is to solve the vacant houses issue that has been afflicting Japan since the early 2000s.
In simple words, what Kariage does is provide a renovation to anyone who can’t afford it on their own. A regenerated place has more market than a deteriorated building, preventing it from becoming a void which would damage not only the property but also the community around.
That being said, POST OMIYA started with the clear intention of generating a lively neighbourhood, with different types of units. On the first floor, three commercial spaces face the public narrow street running next to the site. For those the balconies have been partly demolished and replaced by timber staircases to allow easier access for customers. Combined with the paintwork on the short facade, these are the only changes on the exterior, as opposed to the interiors of the building which underwent a thorough refurbishment.
Second and third floors share the same plan of eight 36 m² units per level, mirrored around 4 internal staircases.
Unlike the other storeys, the fourth and top floor embodies the DIY idea: this is meant to introduce a touch of craftsmanship to the building to let the house owners to customise their apartment thus generating a pleasant mix of variations.
The aim of the work was to design flexible apartments for hosting a variegated assembly of inhabitants, each one with their own background and character.
This is why the main task focused on removing unnecessary elements, making the flats easy to transform according to needs.
The last step of the process was to paint the whole interiors in white: this completed the fresh start that the complex needed. The place is ready now to be personalised by the new tenants. The flats are now like a white canvas ready to be “painted” by those who will inhabit the spaces.